Thanksgiving 2020 will be a celebration like no other. 
As we prepare to trade this year for a newer, shinier and less challenging one, we need to champion the COVID19 obstacles imposed upon this holiday season. This year, to make our holidays as enjoyable as possible, we need to combine all that we have known with some new twists. It is time to take our control and holidays back. 

Factually, we are amidst autumn and the winter holidays are upon us. Emotionally, you may not feel the anticipation of these festive seasons, as time has meshed while we changed our routines and sheltered in place. We thought we were so slick, having the spring holidays on FaceTime, Google meet and Zoom. But there was something missing. The noise of family and friend’s banter was quieted, we cooked less, no one asked, “Can you please pass the gravy?” and we ended our celebrations by saying “Well, that was better than nothing.” Little did we think that we would be back here again with new language directing the celebrations holiday limited to our pandemic pod.   

The question is what will your pod and those who are no longer at your table (or you at their table) do to make the holiday season of 2020 enjoyably memorable? Let’s focus on the celebration that launches the winter holiday season – Thanksgiving.  

Take inventory: 
Think about your favorite Thanksgiving celebrations of the past. What was so enjoyable about those times? If your answer is that you were with family or those you care for, dig deeper. What else was happening? Did your Aunt bring her famous pie? Did you cousin tell jokes that just kept the room in stitches? Were there decorations made by children? Think….what do you remember that makes you feel good. Write these thoughts down. For the purposes of this discussion, you will need them.  

Then consider the following (make notes as needed): 

Rely upon what you know: 
You know that Thanksgiving is the holiday of big parades. You know that from here on, and in a blink of an eye, much of the world is adorned with holiday fare. Every year our world shifts quickly from turkey shaped butter sculpture’s and mounds of cranberries to evergreen trees, menorahs, and kinaras. We know there is a lot of food and leftovers. You know that your mother’s stuffing is better than everybody else’s. Then there are the recipes for the leftovers, like turkey tetrazzini. You know so much! 

Reconcile the facts: You cannot change COVID19, so this year will be unlike any other. You can help to minimize the spread by being cautious. Yet, there are just some things you cannot change. But there are things you can do to alter the landscape of the season.  

Become present. 
Now with all of the necessary information in view, you can create a new approach to a holiday you already know well.  

Merge the thoughts you gathered from your inventory (above) with the things you already know (also above). Then ask yourself what you can do to create a holiday celebration like no other. Make this Thanksgiving one that will be favorable and enjoyable for all.  
Certainly, this takes effort as it is an exercise of thinking differently. Holidays always take a significant amount of energy, so, in that, all is normal. Ordinarily, we plan, shop, clean, cook, eat, clean again, smile, laugh, all while making sure the flow of the day goes well. Therefore, no matter the circumstance, there is a lot that goes into a successful holiday. So yes, this will likely be different than your past experiences, and you can do this. You have doubts? Remember, you have already done so many things to make your family, friends and neighbors feel good, time and time again. So be confident and make your mark this holiday season.  

First, drop the stress. There is no need to stress over this holiday. You will get it all done. You have proved that over and again. Just like every year, you will make it happen.  

A new approach to a favorite old holiday ideas: This is written assuming that your crowd may be smaller, and/or divided into many separate smaller groups in various locations. You can pull from past holiday favorites to create experiences that can be shared by all. Try some of these ideas to make Thanksgiving 2020 one of the best: 

Family recipes: Ask your Aunt to share that famous pie recipe with everyone that would generally be invited for the holiday. While eating, each pod can vote on how much that pie is like your Aunt’s. This can become the beginning of future in-person contests to see who, if anyone, has mastered the recipe. You can do this with any family recipe. No one must miss out on the flavors that make the holiday so special.    

Décor: Have the younger set of the family (or anyone interested) make decorations and swap them between families and/or send them out to the separate celebration sites to ensure a well decorated holiday setting. If these are drawings, they can be scanned and emailed. If the decorations are more complex, you can mail them or provide recommended material and construction directions. During your holiday, you can share these decorations via platforms like FaceTime or Duo, shared photos, and social media platforms viewed by family and friends.  

Music: Before the actual day of Thanksgiving, ask everyone that you would ordinarily celebrate with to choose songs to add to a special Thanksgiving Playlist. Once compiled, share it with your people. There are so many great songs about thankfulness. 

Games and Laughter: Sign on to Zoom, Facetime, Skype or Duo to play a game. You can play games such as Charades or Two Truths and a Lie. Did you know you can have up to 32 people on a group Facetime?  
Giving: Make more food than you need and donate a portion to your local homeless shelter. As COVID19 has caused new restrictions for donated items, first be sure to contact your choice of non-profit or shelter so that your offerings can be enjoyed those who are in need.  

Look at you, bringing everyone and everything together. You are amazing.  

Above all, remember what this is really about. Thanksgiving is about taking the time to bring people together in a spirit of gratitude and celebration of our harvest. If people could create such a memorable celebration in 1621, just imagine what you can do now – and go do it.


  • Allyson S. Maida, Ed.D., LCSW

    Psychotherapist, Executive Coach, Business Consultant, Speaker, Author

    For over 30 years, Dr. Allyson Maida, Psychotherapist, Executive Coach, Speaker and Author has offered an honest, ethical and informed platform for clients to build upon. The CEO of ACM Resources, Inc., she also provides business consultancy to non-profits, government and corporate organizations.